In order for a person to become a leader, there is one thing that he or she will need: power. Power is something that humans have strived for since the beginning of history. There are many ways that a person can gain power. Some gain power through inspiration, some become revered public figures that people naturally want to follow, and some have great skills and attributes that lend themselves to leadership. However, there is one tool has been used to attain power throughout history and has proven effective. That tool is fear. There are two ways that fear can be used to attain power: making people fear the leader and utilizing people’s fear of others. However, this essay is going to focus on fear mongering. Fearmongering is when a leader creates a common enemy for his or her people to fear. In William Goulding’s novel Lord of the Flies, a plane full of British schoolboys crashes on a deserted island. When the boys tried to decide on a leader, there was a power struggle between two boys named Jack and Ralph.
Throughout the novel, Jack used fear as a way to gain power over the group of boys. When the boys were on the island, there was a dogfight in the sky above them. The loser of the dogfight parachuted down on the island to his death. Eventually a littlun (little kid) went up and reported that he saw a snake-like beast. Fear of the beast spread among the boys. The fear caused the boys to neglect their civic duties. Ralph tried to quell the boys’ fear but to no avail. Jack declared that the beast was real and created a ritual to serve it "'This head is for the beast. It's a gift.'"(129) This quote shows that Jack was trying to convince the boys that the beast was real. It is clear throughout the novel that Jack was not happy about losing the “election” to Ralph and wanted to become the leader. He realized that since he was the lead hunter, the littluns would rely on him to protect them from the beast. If people turned to him for protection, he could easily steal the role of leadership right out from under Ralph’s nose.
Playing off of people’s paranoia in order to gain power has also happened throughout history. One example of this is with former U.S Senator Joe McCarthy. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Joe McCarthy was a senator for the state of Wisconsin in the 1950s. When he was senator, he rose to power by accusing hundreds of people in the government of being communist, without any evidence to back up any of his accusations. Joe McCarthy was senator during the Cold War, which was a time when a lot of Americans were very paranoid about the “Red Scare” or the spread of communism. McCarthy was playing off of their paranoia about communism by making the fight against communism the primary focus of his campaign and administration.
When Simon went to the top of the hill, he saw that there was no beast, just a dead fighter pilot. Simon went down the hill to Jack’s feast to inform the boys that there was no beast and that they had nothing to fear. Jack ordered his followers to “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!”(142) and the boys killed Simon. When the idea of the beast was introduced to the group of boys, Jack saw an opportunity to play off of the boys’ fear of the beast in order to gain power. It is clear that this strategy worked because many of the boys joined him and served him like a king. When Simon came along and started telling the boys that there was nothing to fear, Jack saw him as a threat to his power, so he accused Simon of being the beast and had him killed. This shows that when a person tries to tell people the unfortunate truths about the leader's’ rule or rise to power, the leader will try to eliminate that person by any means necessary.
Within Philadelphia, we have seen many similar instances occur. One example from 40 years ago happened with Frank Rizzo. According to Vice Magazine, Frank Rizzo started out as a police officer in Philadelphia. He eventually rose up to become the chief of police. Once he became chief of police, he was often accused of racism, corruption, and police brutality. He eventually became mayor of Philadelphia. When he became mayor, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a satirical article about him. In retaliation, he told his allies at the Building and Trades Construction Council to form a picket line outside the Philadelphia Inquirer building and harass the reporters, in an attempt to shut down the newspaper. This is an example of how leaders will often persecute people who reveal the unfortunate truths about their methods of rule.
As these examples show, power has always been something that humans have sought. People have tried many different methods of gaining it, and one of the most commonly used methods is fearmongering. Leaders play off of their follower’s fears in order to control them, and when their followers reveal unfortunate truths about their rule, the leader will persecute them. In William Goulding’s novel Lord of the Flies he explores these themes through the power struggle between Jack and Ralph. Like many leaders throughout history, such as Joe McCarthy and Frank Rizzo, Jack encouraged fear and paranoia in order to consolidate his power and persecuted those that challenged his teachings. It is clear that Goulding wanted to show the development of civilization with his novel. Civilizations can not exist without a leader, and Goulding wanted to show how leaders rise to power. This novel was written shortly after World War 2, so it is clear that he had seen leaders use fear mongering to rise to power, and he wanted to analyze how it works. Fear mongering works because people follow those who make them feel safe, and in order to make people feel safe, there must be a fear that is being played off of. This method also works because when there is an idea of an “us” and “them”, it strengthens the idea of “us”. That is why people have used fear mongering throughout human history. Unfortunately, fear mongering is still being used by leaders today in America.
Work Cited -
1. Blumgart, Jake. "The Brutal Legacy of Frank Rizzo, the Most Notorious Cop in Philadelphia History." Vice. Vice Magazine, 22 Oct. 2015.Web.31Mar.2017. <https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/remembering-frank-rizzo-the-most-notorious-cop-in-philadelphia-history-1022>
2. Achter, Paul J. "McCarthyism." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/McCarthyism>.
3. Goulding, William. “Lord of the Flies.” New York: Penguin, 2006.